Commerce and Industry Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah yesterday called for expanding trade between Arab countries to strengthen Arab economic integration by removing all obstacles facing their trade relations. “It is no surprise that inter-Arab trade still remains 11 percent of their total trade whereas in Asia it is 50% to 60%, in Europe 40% to 50% and in the Americas 30% to 40%,” he said. Addressing the Saudi-Algerian Joint Commission in Algiers, he urged businessmen to make use of the export finance facility offered by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). “Arab countries are still unable to meet the requirements of a free-trade zone and lack an effective customs union. As a result, they lost many development opportunities,” he said. Al-Rabiah also urged Arab states to make optimum use of their natural resources. Speaking about the present condition of Arab economies, Al-Rabiah said most of them face problems such as unemployment, low wages, an increase in prices of essential commodities and poor living conditions. He highlighted the strong relations between Saudi Arabia and Algeria. SFD has financed a number of development projects in Algeria. “It constructed 1,000 housing units at a cost of SR 70 million and a SR 60 million hospital in Boumerdes and implemented a number of school projects in the country at a total cost of SR 82 million,” the minister said. During the past five years, trade between Saudi Arabia and Algeria rose from SR 356 million in 2006 to SR 1.5 billion in 2011, Al-Rabiah, expressing his hope that the current meeting would boost bilateral trade. Algerian Finance Minister Karim Joudi, who presided over the Algerian side, emphasized the need for taking greater steps to strengthen relations between the two countries. He expressed Algeria’s readiness to cooperate with the Saudi private sector to promote his country’s exports to the Kingdom. Meanwhile, Al-Rabiah held talks with Algerian Minister of Industry and SMEs Sharief Rahmani and emphasized the Kingdom’s willingness to cooperate with Algeria to set up industrial cities, making use of its expertise.